For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord- and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent-its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”
They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.
“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
Well Don Cherry put his foot in his mouth a week ago Saturday night and bit off more than he could chew, and for it he was fired.
The 85 year old Sports Commentator has been a mainstay, a Canadian Icon on Hockey night in Canada for about fourty years.
He is known for his brash style, his “tell it like it is” style, his “no hold punches” style; and to be perfectly honest, offensive comments by Don Cherry have been going on for years.
In some ways maybe that was part of his attractiveness to some people. He was a rich white male that seemed to have working class appeal, and in by some opinions, at times, pandered to the fears that a lot of people have about those who are different.
Don Cherry made prejudiced remarks against women, French Canadians, Europeans, hockey players who didn’t fight, environmentalists, left wing pinkos (as Cherry called them) and Immigrants.
But amazingly he kept his job for many years. Why? Well because Don Cherry was popular. The politics of division are popular.
His abrasive style was popular. So popular in fact that on the television show called The Greatest Canadian which aired in 2004, in which people voted for the person they thought was the greatest Canadian ever, Don Cherry the sports announcer came 7th, ahead of Wayne Gretsky, Alexander Graham Bell and Sir John A. MacDonald.
There are already thousands upon thousands of people ready to defend him.
And the words that got him in trouble. Decrying the fact that some people didn’t buy and wear poppies Cherry said:
“You people that come here… whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you could pay a couple of bucks for a poppy.”
You People. You others out there who are different, who come from away. And the obvious conclusion was that he was speaking about immigrants.
The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council had so many complaints on their website that they literally technically couldn’t cope.
And when asked, Don Cherry in his usual style refused to back down or clarify and change or explain away what he said as meaning something different. He added that he wouldn’t go on air unless he had the freedom to say what he wanted.
So, he was fired.
A Canadian icon gone from Hockey Night in Canada. A Canadian icon gone from another Canadian Icon: Hockey night in Canada.
And maybe that is the other reason that Don Cherry was so popular, he was aligned with one of the more sacred institutions in Canada. Hockey Night in Canada.
There are many of us here who grew up with Saturday night as Hockey night. Back in the days of only one or two channels, that is what Canadians turned to on a cold winter Saturday night.
It became a tradition and even by one definition something sacred or holy or religious, in that the definition or religious is about ultimate meaning,
For some hockey and supporting hockey, or taking their children to hockey, or watching hockey, becomes one of the most meaningful things in their life.
And so, when I read that Jesus comes into Jerusalem in the Gospel of Luke chapter 21 and hears people rave on about the beautiful temple, and Jesus says that the temple is going to come apart and be torn down piece by piece….
…I started to think about the meaning of the temple, not just for the people back then, but for all our sacred institutions and the meaning they give, and how Jesus questions these institutions and suggests that they are temporary and may come down.
Maybe I am being more cynical as I get older, but when you look out at the world, sometimes it is a bit scary to think of the fragility of our institutions and our way of life, and the things we hold dear.
War and rumours of wars all around the world. There is talk not only of Quebec separation but Alberta separation for our country.
Our predictable economy of Canadian oil is under fire, and some say it will never be the same.
The Environment is deteriorating as Climate change happens.
Democracy seems to be taking a hit and there a struggles all over the world in various countries about the rights of people to determine their own destiny, while the rise of Popularism means that some democratic countries have elected popular leaders who say they have the solutions, but tend to be dictatorial and selfish in leadership style and often dismiss parts of their own population as unimportant.
Truth seems to be under fire, with the advent of so much media and the internet and falsehoods being spread on the web and a rate that would make any normal person’s head spin.
The institution of the church is under fire. In fact, in an article I read on line of the approximately 27,000 buildings of worship, the National Trust of Canada is predicting that in the next ten years 9000 will be sold or torn down. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/losing-churches-canada-1.5046812
And so, I want us to think about those things that we thought were the things that were safe and trusted and enduring.
Canada, Climate, Truth, Democracy, Church, Family, Hockey, Cheeseburgers or whatever you did, or ate, or watched, or enjoyed…
And think about it as a kind of temple. A place where you put your energy, and where you might have found joy and meaning,
And think about whether it is changing or even under attack.
And then hear the words of Jesus, that these stones of your temple are going to be torn down.
Why does Jesus say that?
The temple, know as Herod’s temple was a huge grand magnificent structure, the like of would be hard to imagine being built two thousand years ago.
There were stones in the wall fourty feet long. Herod had put so much gold in the walls you could almost blind yourself looking at the temple on a sunny day.
The temple was twice the size of the Roman Forum. It is as big as Commonwealth Stadium and its parking lot.
But it was much more than a big building. It was the centre of Jewish worship and Jewish identity.
It was the place they believed God would come to visit humans.
And they had strict rules about who was let in and how close you could get to the holiest place.
And YOU PEOPLE were not allowed.
YOU who are not Jewish, or not male, or not an adult, or not good enough, or not well enough….
YOU PEOPLE were not allowed.
And so, Jesus saw the temple in different terms than many others.
He saw it not as a place to invite people in to God, to love, to inclusion and to forgiveness…
But as a barrier to most people that actually kept them from love, understanding, forgiveness and acceptance.
The problem with most human institutions is that they are human, and while they do some good, and sometimes do great good, they are all flawed and often end up disadvantaging some people over others.
As much as I like hockey, I have to acknowledge that the level of violence is way beyond what I think is reasonable. Allowing fighting doesn’t seem very Christlike or a way for healthy people to solve problems, but especially when it is supposed to be a game.
And so, Jesus challenges us to always look at our human institutions that we hold sacred and suggests sometimes they even have to be torn down so they can be rebuilt with a kinder, more inclusive infrastructure.
This little piece of scripture about the temple being torn down is in a larger section of scripture that challenges the institution of Jewish faith. Let me clear. He wasn’t challenging Jewish faith, but the institutions of his day that controlled the Jewish faith.
It begins with Jesus going to the house of Zaccheus the tax collector and naming him a child of Abraham, a child of the faith, when it was obvious that Zaccheus as a tax collector would not have been welcome in the temple.
And then there is this very interesting parable in Luke about a man going on a journey and entrusting his servants with gold coins.
We are more familiar with the Matthew version which is about the talents.
But in Luke’s version there are notable differences.
The nobleman must travel to apply for kingship.
The citizens in his region hate him and go to the same arch-ruler to oppose him.
He is made a king anyway and slaughters his opposition in the end.
It is a kind of gruesome story especially in its end. The interesting thing it seems to mirror the life of Herod’s son Archelaus who went to Rome to win his kingship, and yet the citizens opposed him becoming king, but they lost out and Archelaus was appointed ruler.
So rather than a story about using your talents, it is a story about the Rich appointing the Rich to power and the people who are rewarded in the story are the rich, and the poor have what little they had taken away from them, and those who opposed the king are put to death in front of him.
And so, I think in Luke’s gospel the story is not about God or Jesus, but God and Jesus stand in contrast to this king who so willing takes from the poor and kills those who oppose his greed and power.
And it is this kind of system that Jesus opposes. The systems that say You people.
You people, don’t have worth.
You people don’t have value.
You people can be killed.
You people don’t deserve even the little you have.
You people are not welcome.
You people are wrong.
And then there is the parable of the workers in the vineyard who kill the servants who come to collect the rent. And kill the son who comes to claim the rent.
And the bible reads that the Teachers of the Law and Chief Priests realized that Jesus was talking about them.
that the vineyard was a place of violence and exclusion instead of a place of love and inclusion.
And after this parable Jesus tells them that the stone, they rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
And when Jesus enters Jerusalem he cries, because the Temple, the leaders, the institutions don’t know what peace and love are all about.
And so back to our original gospel lesson, where Jesus says that stones of the temple are torn down.
They are torn down because they are more about the institution than they are for the people the institution is supposed to serve.
Remember that Jesus said he came to serve not be served.
And so, the questions for us today
What are the temples we hold dear, and where do they need to change?
Where do we turn to for safety and security?
Who are the people we call YOU PEOPLE, the ones we don’t want to let in, or the ones we blame for our problems?
What are the lies and illusions we mistake for truth?
What are the things I am building in my life and will it bring love and inclusion to others or insulate me from others?
Am I willing to sit with the fact that nothing human is of permanence, not even my own life?
Do I understand that the more that things change the more we want to keep trusting the same old things that failed us in the first place?
Will I let God tear me down so that all the stones of my life are flattened, so I can be rebuilt into the image of Christ?
Quite a few years ago there was a movie entitled Witness that starred Harrison Ford. The premise of the movie is that an Amish boy witnesses a murder in Philadelphia at the train station.
Harrison Ford plays John Book a policeman, who is shot in attempted murder by the corrupt cop, and realizing that the Amish boy might be in danger, while wounded he drives them back to Lancaster county to the Amish community, where after dropping them off he passes out.
The Amish family take him in and look after him, and of course he falls in love with the Amish widow. It is a movie after all.
There is one scene in the movie that I really liked. I liked the whole movie, but one scene came to mind as I was working on the sermon.
And that is the scene when the whole Amish community comes together for a barn raising. With a beautiful piece of music composed by Maurice Jarre, who won an academy award for the score to Lawrence of Arabia, you see the men put the barn together and work as a unit, while the women bring water and prepare food.
You see the men raise two big centerpieces to start the frame and then the add the cross pieces and start to fill it in. As the frame is built and the sides are added even the boys join in hammering nails.
And as I remember it there was joy and happiness. There was cooperation and community. There was friendship and food. There was love, for indeed the Amish built the barn for a new married couple.
Today I think Jesus says to us something new can be built.
Isaiah had a vision of it when he wrote
For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
Something new can be built.
A different temple, not built with the bricks and stones and mortar or wood of human construction…
But built with the bricks of love, peace, compassion, kindness, mercy and grace.
Built not with real bricks and stone or wood
But built with people who care. People who are true. People who have rejected the phrase “YOU PEOPLE” and say: “All are welcome. All are loved.”
People who want to build community… Who forgive each other, who include each other…
…who recognize that we are one human family, and the only way to have a real future is not with human institutions alone, but with the divine institution of unconditional love.
For that love that Jesus displayed on the cross, is the stone that this world has rejected, but is the cornerstone we seek to build our lives on.